Toward zero

As the tug-of-war between the Municipal Corporation and Jaypee continues with no end in sight, Chandigarh residents must realise that reducing the waste they produce, along with recycling and reusing, is the only way forward for a long-term solution to the city’s solid waste problems. And a large part of the responsibility has to be shouldered by the residents themselves

Written by Hina Rohtaki | Chandigarh | Published:July 24, 2017 1:22 am
Garbage processing plant at Dadumajra Chandigarh, Chandigarh Dadumajra Plant, Jaypee Group versus Municipal Corporation Chandigarh, Garbage dumped outside the treatment plant at Dadumajra. Express Archives

CHANDIGARH RESIDENTS like to call Le Corbusier’s modernist vision in which they live City Beautiful, but its solid waste woes qualify it for the opposite tag. Known for its greenery, and proudly maintained by first generation settlers as a model city for the rest of the country to emulate, Chandigarh’s present population of slightly over 1 million seems to have lost interest in keeping the place clean.

A survey by Centre for Science and Environment found Chandigarh to be one of the dirtiest cities in the country, purely on its waste disposal inefficiency. “Chandigarh may outwardly look clean, but the city suffers from an absence of garbage segregation at source,” Swati Singh Sambyal, co-author of the report, had said at the time.

It was easy for Chandigarh to brush off CSE’s findings as a survey by a NGO. But the drop in its Swachh ranking from 2 to 11 is still smarting. The UT Administration claims it was lack of citizen feedback that killed the city’s prospects, but that only means the citizens are not impressed enough. But while residents are quick to blame the Municipal Corporation and UT Administration for the not so clean tag, how many have reflected on what they can do to make Chandigarh a better place, in terms of its presently dysfunctional waste disposal system?

Chandigarh citizens are spectators to the slanging match between the MC and Jaypee, wringing their hands and expressing their bitterness at bad governance. But they should take a large portion of that blame. From a blithe unconcern in segregation practices and domestic waste production, throwing their malba and garden waste quietly by the roadside of parks, and littering Sector 17 with plastic every weekend, it’s the city’s resident litterbugs who rule.

Chandigarh produces 450 tonnes of garbage per day, which is about 450 gms of waste per head, or 164.25 kgs per head in a year. The daily total solid waste is up from 250-300 tonnes in 2013, and at this rate, is expected to touch 700 tonnes. This, at a time, when the world’s best cities are moving to “zero” waste practices.

At present, the entire 450 tonnes per day is going to Dadumajra dumping ground, the level of which is now higher than the level of the houses located in the area. In recent days, as the MC is locked in a battle with Jaypee, the entire garbage is dumped at Dadumajra. Municipal Commissioner Baldeo Purushartha feels that the behaviour change in citizens is highly important to make the waste management system effective in Chandigarh.

He maintains that even as other countries adopt the mantra of “reduce, recycle and reuse” as the basis of effective waste management, Indians, who have been practising “recycle and reuse”, have not yet learnt how to “reduce”. “A system works only with citizens’ support as this is something which is of paramount importance. We do have infrastructure for waste management but behavioural changes in citizens, is something which has to come from within. The behavioural changes have to come within everybody — be it residents, commercial establishment owners or the door-to-door collectors who have to ensure that they segregate and collect only segregated garbage,” says Purushartha.

The Municipal Commissioner adds that one reason why waste management in countries abroad is successful is because of high penalty on littering, which Chandigarh has introduced only now. Under amended bylaws of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation, an owner of a residential house will have to pay recovery charges of Rs 5,000 for littering, while that of a commercial outlet will have to pay Rs 10,000 for the offence. This will be in addition to the fine of Rs 500.

Purushartha says within three months, the city would have a compost plant. But even this would not succeed without citizen participation in the best practice of waste segregation at source. “At present, it is not mandatory, it is just that we are trying to inculcate a habit with two bins. But we have educated people in Chandigarh and within six months we can achieve complete segregation at source if we change our mindset,” he adds.

The MC Commissioner hopes that Chandigarh, being a city with a mostly literate population, could implement segregation at source within six months if followed in letter and spirit.

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